"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Morning Doom and Gloom from Mark Steyn

Gloom and Doom!  I love Mark Steyn, but reading him on a Saturday morning can make you want to raid the liquor cabinet and get an early start on the Bloody Marys.  

Anyway, Steyn lays it on thick this morning about the debt ceiling "negotiations," capturing the essentially Through-the-Looking-Glass aspect of the whole affair:  
There is something surreal and unnerving about the so-called “debt ceiling” negotiations staggering on in Washington. In the real world, negotiations on an increase in one’s debt limit are conducted between the borrower and the lender. Only in Washington is a debt increase negotiated between two groups of borrowers.

Actually, it’s more accurate to call them two groups of spenders. On the one side are Obama and the Democrats, who in a negotiation supposedly intended to reduce American indebtedness are (surprise!) proposing massive increasing in spending (an extra $33 billion for Pell Grants, for example). The Democrat position is: You guys always complain that we spend spend spend like there’s (what’s the phrase again?) no tomorrow, so be grateful that we’re now proposing to spend spend spend spend like there’s no this evening.
On the other side are the Republicans, who are the closest anybody gets to representing, albeit somewhat tentatively and less than fullthroatedly, the actual borrowers — that’s to say, you and your children and grandchildren. But in essence the spenders are negotiating among themselves how much debt they’re going to burden you with. It’s like you and your missus announcing you’ve set your new credit limit at $1.3 million, and then telling the bank to send demands for repayment to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s kindergartner next door.

Nothing good is going to come from these ludicrously protracted negotiations over laughably meaningless accounting sleights-of-hand scheduled to kick in circa 2020. All the charade does is confirm to prudent analysts around the world that the depraved ruling class of the United States cannot self-correct, and, indeed, has no desire to.

When the 44th president took office, he made a decision that it was time for the already unsustainable levels of government spending finally to break the bounds of reality and frolic and gambol in the magical fairy kingdom of Spendaholica: This year, the federal government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends, a ratio that is unprecedented. Barack Obama would like this to be, as they say, “the new normal” — at least until that 43 cents creeps up a nickel or so, and the United States government is spending twice as much as it takes in, year in, year out, now and forever. If the Republicans refuse to go along with that, well, then the negotiations will collapse and, as he told Scott Pelley on CBS the other night, Gran’ma gets it. That monthly Social Security check? Fuhgeddabouddit. “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue,” declared the president. “Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.”

But hang on. I thought the Social Security checks came out of the famous “Social Security trust fund,” whose “trustees” assure us there’s currently $2.6 trillion in there. Which should be enough for the August 3rd check run, shouldn’t it? Golly, to listen to the president, you’d almost get the impression that, by the time you saw the padlock off the old Social Security lockbox, there’s nothing in there but a yellowing IOU and a couple of moths. Indeed, to listen to Obama, one might easily conclude that the whole rotten, stinking edifice of federal government is an accounting trick.
We have rooms full of millionaires talking about how they are going to pretend to "cut" spending in the "out" years -- meaning years after they are out of office and already soaking in the plush federal pensions they will have "earned" -- all the while piling roughly $10,000 of new federal debt on every one of the 150 million American workers every year.   But even that's not quite right, since half of the federal workers pay no federal income tax and won't be paying off any of that debt.   So $20,000 per worker who pays taxes.   But that's not quite right either, since most of those pay only a small percentage of the total federal income tax.  At my income level -- not great, but safely inside the top 5% or so -- we pay roughly 60% of federal income taxes and so will be expected to pay off that amount of the federal debt.   Hmmmmm.... 60% of the $1.6 trillion deficit the feds are expected to run this year?   That's about $1 trillion in debt this year.   5% of workers.... that's about 7.5 million people.   So the federal government just laid, oh, about $133,000 in debt on me and people like me.   This year.   And every year as far as the eyes can see.

That's more than I still owe on my house, in case you were wondering.   Care to take odds on me paying that back anytime soon?

Doom!   And gloom!

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